Two Asians and a white boy walk into a room, (diametric’ly opposed, foes).
It was a Sunday, and we were at a school for a Quiz Bowl tournament. Where yes, if you walked in, you would be able to affirm the stereotypes you’ve been taught about race and education.
So, we were in the minority as white people. And my 13 year old son, bless his little heart, was oblivious to it, as most 13 year old boys who are more concerned with memorizing historical and literature facts probably are. And because, you know, white people have the luxury of being oblivious to the racial make-up of groups.
So these boys were talking about the snacks available to purchase during the day, and the one boy says “I just got a spring roll,” and the other boys says “Whatttt?? Nobody likes those things!”
And my son, who was sitting next to him, enthusiastically pipes in with “My sister does!”
And the second Asian boy falls down in his desk in hysterical laughter. (Yo, who the f is this?) And I started laughing. And my son, who is used to missing social cues, just shrugged.
It was SO FUNNY!!
I wanted to blurt out “Yeah, because she’s white!” But I was across the room. But you know that’s what the kid was thinking.When we got home, we talked about it, and he didn’t quite get it, because aren’t spring rolls Asian food? (I’m actually curious now if this is common. Are spring rolls white people food?)
So I was like, it’d be like if two black kids said “Nobody likes macaroni salad” and you said “My sister does” (which she does, of course). And then he saw the point, and the humor, but I think he also felt embarrassed. Which is partly what can make talking about racial things so awkward and hard.
But it doesn’t have to be. Not all the time anyway. It can be funny. And the more we have these interactions with our kids, the more natural it will be to be racially aware. There’s no shame in liking spring rolls. Or green bean casserole. Or mayonnaise. But we should know that they are white people foods. (I would love to read a book on food and race. I mean green bean casserole? I had no idea!!)
Part of healing a racially broken society is, for white people, being aware of the racialized space we take up, and knowing what whiteness means. There is nothing wrong about white culture’s food coming from Campbell’s line of creamed soups. But we should know that it isn’t universally appreciated.
And maybe, just maybe, we should spend a couple of thoughts on why white people take cultural cues from capitalism.